My all-time favourite photo of the late Princess Diana...
It seems every generation has a famous person for whom you could ask the following question: Where were you when you found out that ???? died? For some it was John F. Kennedy, others it was Marilyn Munroe, Elvis Presley, John Lennon, Mother Theresa, John F. Kennedy Jr....the list goes on. For me, it was Princess Diana...and the memory is burned into my mind.
I think almost every little girl of my generation loved Princess Diana. I remember the first time I became aware of her mystique and presence. I was watching an interview on television of a newly engaged couple, and I was unsure as to who the people were. I asked my mother, who was watching the program intently, and she said it was Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. She gave me the background on the two of them and as I watched the program with her, I slowly became enamored of this shy, pretty girl. I listened to the newsperson describe her as tall, pretty, shy and virginal ( I also had to ask my mother what that meant) and possessing a "peaches and cream" complexion. I thought that sounded lovely and I began a period of hero worship that would last basically until she passed away.
I began clipping every photo and article I could get my hands on and carefully glued everything into a scrapbook that was soon filled to the brim. Having a dear aunt and uncle who had recently emigrated from Ireland meant that I was able to secure some very good and unique memorabilia of their wedding. They took a trip back to Ireland around the time leading up to the wedding and brought me back a stamp set, a pencil case with their image, a mug, book, and more clippings...this time from British papers!! I felt very privileged, indeed, to have these treasures in my possession and I still have them today. Like every young girl I arose at approx. 5am to be able to watch the wedding on television. I imagined her excitement and nervousness as she prepared to make that grand march down the aisle. I can still remember the excited butterflies in my stomach as I caught that first glimpse of her in the carriage with her father. By this time, I knew every detail reported about her and Prince Charles and had read every book about them I could get my hands on. I even struggled through a rather lengthy book about Charles as I felt the need to be well-versed on his life as well, if I was truly going to be a "royal expert"!! I continued to devour every detail of their marriage, their children, and lives right to the bitter end of their union. I was so anxious to see what direction her life would take her following the divorce, and secretly hoped she'd find a wonderful man to settle down with and perhaps have a little girl in her image.
The day she died was such a shock to me. I had just arrived for my nursing shift at 7am and as I was receiving report, one of the LPN's arrived at the nurse's station and casually asked, "Did you hear that lady Diana died??" The first thought that entered my head was, "How tacky! Who calls her Lady Diana anymore? " and then, "Where did she hear such nonsense...The National Examiner??" I basically said as much (not the tacky part...) and she went on to elaborate some of the details. I literally felt cold inside and full of disbelief. But it was true. Every room I entered that morning, as I distributed the medications, had the t.v. on regurgitating the same scant details. Princess Diana was dead. I think I cried with every one of my elderly female patients while the elderly men tsked-tsked as they watched the details unfold. It took me a very long time to administer my meds that day. I will never forget the details of how I found out; and unreasonably, it still irritates me to this day the way the news was delivered to me. It was as if I expected it to be relayed to me in a more gentle, respectful way. Didn't anyone know what a huge part of my childhood she was? In fact, when I played Barbies (and I did so every day), my Barbie was Princess Diana. Her children were William and Harry, but her husband was...Prince Andrew!! I couldn't bring myself to make my handsome blonde Ken doll be Prince Charles. Ken was too smiley to be such a serious sort. Indeed, Prince Andrew was handsome, fun, and had a certain appeal...if you know what I mean...!!
Oh, and by the way, did I mention that I MET the princess? Well, I did. I was about 11 years old and she was visiting our area, so a lot of the local schools organized bus trips to the private school they were visiting nearby. We waited a long time for them to emerge from the building; but when they did, it was well worth the wait. I got to shake both Princess Diana's and Prince Charles' hands and she chatted with me and my friends about how we had waited a long time in the drizzle to see them and that she hoped we hadn't had to miss our lunches. I have a photo of her speaking to me (my friend snapped it from beside me, so I'm not in it, but she was thisclose to me) and I remember thinking that her complexion really was like peaches and cream and how beautiful her engagement ring looked up close. She wore a pale lemon dress in a drop waist style with pleating all around the bottom and a lovely matching hat. It was one of the highlights of my childhood!
Now that Diana is gone, I still find myself wondering what would have become of her. How would her boys be different, and would she have remarried? I still remember thinking that the world would miss seeing her beautiful face on the covers of magazines...that the world would be a far duller place, for no one could, or has ever matched her appeal or kindness. And, most importantly, the people who lost the most were two boys who knew her simply as Mummy.
"A girl given the name of the ancient goddess of hunting, was in the end the most hunted person of the modern age."- Earl Spencer, Diana's brother -